Jim Henson once summed up The Muppet Show thusly: “It all ends in one of two ways: Either someone gets eaten or something blows up.”
So far on ABC’s The Muppets, no one’s gotten eaten and shockingly few things have been blown up. No wonder there’s so much behind-the-scenes drama. Still, the mockumentary has incrementally improved since the disappointing and bafflingly toxic pilot. The writers are trying to balance Kermit’s nervousness and Piggy’s all-around intolerability, but the supporting characters, including more scenes for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, have helped things considerably. There’s still too little Rowlf, though.
Tuesday’s episode, “Pig’s in a Blackout,” was a mostly successful look at how dependent the other Muppets, especially Scooter, are on Kermit. No wonder he has a nervous breakdown and visits a spa. Kermit’s unable to find peace of mind there (thanks to a typically asshole-ish Jason Bateman), but he does in his backyard, which he converts into a swamp. Home is where the nostalgia is, and we’re treated to a lovely performance of “The Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie. Apart from an interjection from an annoyed neighbor, the scene’s played straight. Just a frog, his banjo, and tears.
It’s a genuine moment on a show that’s been plagued by cynicism. The new showrunner should keep that in mind.